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Jeff’s Corner

Howdy, Howdy, and Hola

Well, I’m 63 today, and one thing is for sure; I’ve never been this old on my birthday before. I suppose on one level I can celebrate having turned 21 three times. Geezo, I need to get to my wine rack while I still have the strength to pull the cork.

Anyway, last week Brian chased me down in the tasting room VERY excited about the new 2014 Epiphany. It just finished its time in oak and was back in tanks waiting to be bottled. He gave me a direct directive to taste it and write some notes, which I have dutifully done.

However, before I share these with you next week, let’s check out some info about the Montepulciano and Aglianico grapes which are blended together to create our very limited, and very much sought after, Epiphany. This wine is unique in that the two are “field blended”. This means that they fermented and aged together as one wine. Unlike our other blends, these two are married at birth.

Aglianico has a rich and storied past. The vine originated in Greece, and was brought to Italy by Greek settlers. It was widely planted throughout central Italy by the 7th century. Pliny the Elder, one of the greatest Roman winemakers (and a pretty darn good philosopher), constantly extolled its virtues. It is predominately found in the Compania and Basilicata regions of south central Italy.

Aglianico is one of Italy's best “black” skinned grapes, and produces a deep garnet wine with high levels of tannin and acid. The big tannins create an age worthy wine that can be a bit edgy when young. A few years of aging will allow earthy flavors of plum and chocolate to emerge.

Montepulciano is planted throughout Italy, and is most common in the southeastern regions. It may have originated in Abruzzo (or Abbruzzi) on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea. It’s important not to confuse the grape Montepulciano with the village Montepulciano in western Tuscany, which gives its name to the famous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano which is primarily Sangiovese.

The grape typically has high yields, which was certainly the case with the 2014. Montepulciano wines are rich and elegant, with flavor and aroma profiles of dark fruit and peppery spiciness. Its moderate acidity and tannin make it a great partner for our Aglianico. It’s also used to produce a lovely, dark rose wine called “Cerasoulo”, which literally translates as “cherry red”.

So, until next week when we talk about the ’14 Epiphany (and a word about our exciting new “Estate Club”), we’ll see you on the flip-side.

Jeff’s Corner 

Hello out there!

By now, many of you in our Black Label and Mixed Wine Clubs have received the new 2014 Serendipity. WOWSER! This wine is a real beauty. The story behind Serendipity, however, is too cool not to revisit, so before we check out the ’14, here’s some history from Jeff’s Corner last April:

“It was born in 2007, the same vintage as the great ’07 Bellissimo. The truth is shrouded in legend, but it seems Jason had some wine still in barrels after the regulars were bottled.

Brian and Jason wanted to create something new, and if I remember, the wine was about 60% Syrah, and 20% each Cab Franc and Merlot. Jennifer named it Serendipity, and it won best-in-class and a Gold Medal at the Houston Livestock Competition that year. A perfect moniker, Jen!

Beyond being a great wine, the beauty and collectibilty of Serendipity is that it’s different every year. Each vintage, Jason selects what he feels are some our best wines to craft a unique blend.”

The 2014 is a big, big wine, built to age. It is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 16% Syrah, and 6% Cabernet Franc with a relatively high ABV of 14.6%. The color is dark ruby and shows rich, yet bright extraction.

Dense aromas and flavors of black cherry, blackcurrant, and licorice are layered with Mexican vanilla, hazelnut, and leather. The aromas of leather reminded me of a baseball glove, and sent me off sniffing my old Wilson A2000.

As I mentioned, this is a huge wine with muscular tannins well integrated with vigorous acids and lots of oak. The wine finishes with a plush and lingering chalky texture that is very appealing. Yet again we see a wine from Jason and crew with magnificent finesse and balance.

This wine is so good it would probably pair well with cardboard, but let’s try it instead with a pepper-crusted rib-eye seared in butter, red wine, and worcestershire, finished some creamy au gratin potatoes. Yum!

Jeff’s Corner

Caio, everyone!

Today is Bellissimo day, and it seems to roll around every year almost to the day. Last year in Jeff’s Corner (4-3-15) we took a look at the newly released 2013 Bellissimo, and here we are about to check out the soon to be released 2014. The ’13 evolved into my favorite since the legendary ’07, and the ’14 is showing great promise in its youth.

Lighter and brighter than the ’13, yet very true to its Super Tuscan style, the 2014 is about 49% Sangiovese, 25.75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19.25% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Franc. With an ABV of 13.9%, it’s made from mostly Texas High Plains fruit, predominately from the Lost Draw Vineyards and Reddy Vineyards.

A rich dark ruby and garnet in color, this wine is amazingly pleasant to drink with or without food. Aromas of bright cherry, lavender, and cinnamon mingle with the traditional rustic earthiness that Jason’s Bellissimos have become famous for.

The palate is a delicate balance of vibrant red fruit and lively acids that transition into a refreshing finish framed by light oak and soft tannins. Medium in texture and body, let’s try this wine at about 60 degrees, or about 30 minutes in the fridge if it started at 70 degrees.

Kathy and I enjoyed this on our porch (while we wrote these notes) with some roasted red pepper hummus and Havarti. It was a good match, but it was a great match with the Chicken Marsala we had for dinner. The bright cherry from the Sangiovese did well with the sweetness of the Marsala, and the brisk acid complimented the rich butter in the sauce.

Here’s my super easy recipe, chow...

CHICKEN MARSALA

INGREDIENTS

* 4-6 oz boneless chicken breasts
* 1/2 cup grated Romano, 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs, mixed
* 2 Tbs olive oil
* 4-6 Tbs butter
* 1/2 cup Marsala
* 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
* 2 Tbs diced shallots
* 8-10 oz sliced Cremini mushrooms

METHOD

* In a large, sealed zip-loc pound the chicken to where it’s between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.
* Dredge it in the Romano/bread crumbs until well coated.
* Heat the olive oil and 1/2 the butter in a large skillet to medium high heat. Brown the chicken on each side until it releases from the pan, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove and keep warm.
* Add the mushrooms and shallots, cooking until al dente. Add the Marsala and deglaze the pan for about 45 seconds, then add the stock and reduce for 2-4 minutes.
* Stir in the remaining butter and reduce the heat to a simmer while the sauce thickens. Remember, it will continue to thicken as it cools.

I’d definitely serve this on hot plates to help keep the food warm. Linguine and garlic bread for sides, ice cream and brownies for dessert.

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